Shop Floor Control System in the Apparel Manufacturing for Real Time Data

The real-time system is an IT-enabled system that can provide necessary information to its users as sooner as things are rolled on. In the shop floor, the real-time system is used for production and inventory tracking and control. The radio frequency identification (RFID) technology is one of the few technologies used in a real-time shop floor production control system in the apparel manufacturing.

In a garment manufacturing unit, we have managers and industrial engineers to manage the shop floor. But they don’t have the latest technology or reliable tool to capture the production data in real-time to provide standard time produced by employees, actual working hours of the employees, lost time data, bottleneck identification and improved shop floor visibility.

Apparel manufacturing companies that are aware of the real-time system and who feel the accurate and real-time data is important for managing and improving the processes are using this kind of systems.

In this article, I will walk you through the basics of a real-time shop floor control system and its benefits in the garment manufacturing sector.

Why a Real-time System?

The garment manufacturing sector is labor intensive. And you know that labors are the costliest resource in making garments. To maximize the utilization of the shop floor employees, production managers, and line supervisors need information on real-time. Managers can take the decision quickly if they are informed with correct data on the real-time basis. Having the real-time production control system implemented, factory management does not need to wait or call anybody for the daily production status. They can check the shop floor reports and data from anywhere with internet connectivity.

Following are some pointers that are possible through such systems. This system -

  • Captures real-time production information from each workstation, each section, each line and each process.
  • Provides data on who is doing what task on the shop floor
  • Provides workers’ idle time, lost time and actual bundle work time data
  • Calculate the true labor cost of garment production 
  • Calculate workers actual earnings and make-up amount that a factory needs to pay to their workers
  • Identifies bottleneck operations on the floor and shows in which workstation the bottleneck operations can be done within line to meet day’s target
  • Records bundle working time for each bundle
  • Helps in line balancing by providing minute by minute production data and inventory details
  • Records the reasons of low production in a line or in a specific operation
  • Keeps factory informed in many other ways

Application of the real-time production control system in garment manufacturing

This system can be used in all processes in the apparel manufacturing - from sample development to packing of the garment. In the bulk production, the order status can be tracked in real-time from cutting room production to washing to the packing of the garments. The real-time system is also used in the statistical quality control (SQC). You can track who had made the defects and in which operations defect generations are more.

Also See: Impact of Real-Time Shop Floor Control System in Improving Garment Production

System Components

Let me briefly show you the primary components of a RFID based real-time production control system. I am referring to our shop floor production control system to explain the system components. The hardware components include Host server, SQL server (Database server), Network Manager, Controller, operator terminal, RFID reader, RFID tags, Bundle sticker printer (barcode printer), and LCD TV screen. Host server, SQL server, Network manager, and controller are connected to the LAN (via ethernet cable). The operator terminals are connected to the controller through a network cable.

Operator terminals are installed on the workstations where the factory desires to capture data. The RFID reader is attached to each operator terminal. The terminal is used to enter employee transaction information like scanning bundles (garment pieces), sign-on and sign-out time on the workstation, lost time records etc. Operators can view their production data, earning and efficiency information on the terminal display. Depending on operator inquiry terminal shows information on real-time. The same terminal can be used as sewing terminal, SQC terminal, Group incentive terminal and shared terminal.

RFID tags are used as bundle tags like a bundle ticket. When a bundle tag is scanned to the operator terminal, system records who did that bundle, when the scanning is done, on which operation of the OB is scanned etc. The RFID tags can be used different ways like employee tags (for employee sign-on), supervisor tags (for lost time request approval) and operation tag (to change operation when an operator do multiple operations on the same workstation). RFID tags are available at various frequency level.

LCD screens are used for displaying key information on the floor. LCD screens are normally hung on the wall at the end of the line. In an LCD screen reports like a number of attendances/absent employees, line output, line target, line performance, and hourly production report, are shown.

Garment factory shop floor display
Figure 1: Real-time production and performance display on TV screens

System Workflow

After the system installation, followings are main activities to be performed by the factory to make it a successful implementation. I have tried to list the activities in a sequence for an operation cycle.

Data preparation: Initially user needs to enter data into the system like shift timing details, employee master, operation and style master, and operation bulletin. Normally, industrial engineering department takes care of data entry activities. Data masters can be imported from excel file or can be added from system menus.

Bundle tag preparation: Bundle tags are prepared by scanning each tag on the RFID tag writer. Depending on the lay plan and cut bundle details, bundle list is made on the system allocating a unique number for each bundle. The RFID tag carries the unique bundle number. After bundle tags are prepared, each bundle tag is labeled with a sticker to identify the bundle number.

Attaching Bundle tag to each bundle or to individual pieces (in case factory follows single pieces bundle system). Multiple RFID tags may be required to against each bundle depending on the production system. For example, when the garment is processed on different sections at the same time (like part sections of a shirt making line – collar, cuff, back and front parts of a bundle can be stitched at the same time). Operators receive the RFID tags with the bundles (cuttings).

Bundle of cuttings with tag
Figure 2: RFID Tag and Tag Attached to a Bundle
Operator terminal setup: Each operator terminal is set-up with a unique terminal id (like each computer device needs a unique IP address) and operation number. Operators login to their terminals when they work on the line.

Scanning bundle tags: When operators work on the bundle they scan bundle tag (RFID Tag) to the RFID reader attached to the terminal. Operators need to scan bundle tags as they start working for the bundle.

Report reviewing and report inquiry: As soon as operators scan bundle tags and complete their first bundle, LCD screens start displaying production details and the display is automatically get updated. Line supervisor sees the reports to manage their lines. The operator’s terminal also shows much useful information to operators.

Reports and data analysis: The system captures all transactions made on the floor. Data based action is taken by the line supervisor after viewing the reports.

Reporting and data analysis

The system captures and records all the transactions made on terminals by employees and supervisors. Line supervisors’ comments and managers’ comments on low production and idle lines are fed using tabs or mobile application. The system is already equipped Business Intelligence (BI) tools, common production, and WIP reports. Users can further develop custom reports and analyze the data as required. Here are few examples of common production reports.

  • Hourly production report
  • Line balancing chart
  • Lost time data - lost hours
  • KPI Dashboard
  • Operator skill matrix
  • Line and employee performance
  • Business Intelligence tools
  • Production display screen on the shop floor


The wages of the workers will never reduce in future. To be competitive in the business and increase the bottom line, you need to find a way to reduce your manufacturing cost. As per industry experts and consultants, reduction in the manufacturing cost is possible through improving floor performance, workers performance, and increasing resource utilization. To achieve these goals, you need a reliable technology with business intelligence tool that can provide information to your team for quick action.

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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